VP leaves Aspen Music Fest for the Boston Symphony Orchestra
Asadour Santourian, longtime artistic director of the Aspen Music Festival and School, left the organization for a position with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Santourian, who had worked for the cultural institution in Aspen since 2003, started this week as vice president of the Tanglewood Music Center BSO and learning.
“It was the right fit because it speaks to both my willingness and my ability to nurture and mentor young talent,” Santourian said Thursday from Boston, “as well as the programming, which is a first everlasting love.”
Santourian was the most senior executive in the triumvirate of men at the top of the Aspen Music Festival, serving as Vice President of Arts Administration and guiding the organization alongside President and CEO Alan Fletcher and Director Musical Robert Spano.
Present at orchestra rehearsals and concerts in the Benedict Music Tent, Santourian has mentored countless musicians and bandleaders as they transition from student to professional.
“Asadour’s 18 years in Aspen have been characterized by creativity, imagination and impeccable attention to detail,” Fletcher said by email Friday. “Among many notable accomplishments are his pivotal work with our (Aspen) Conducting Academy, his stellar record of adventurous programming, and his commitment to expanding and diversifying our repertoire, but these are just a few.”
Among Santourian’s initiatives were the establishment of themes and sub-themes to program concerts for the summer seasons, allowing the public to make the connection between sometimes disparate works, federating programs and also emphasizing individual composers.
“It was a place where I could dream my musical ideas out loud and have everyone travel with those ideas,” Santourian said.
He has seen ups and downs with the organization, including its controversial downsizing in 2010, when the festival shortened its season by a week and reduced its annual student body and faculty, the groundbreaking redevelopment of its Castle Creek campus which opened in 2016 and the historic cancellation of the 2020 in-person concert season due to the coronavirus pandemic and the shift to virtual concerts.
In recent years, Santourian has spearheaded efforts to spotlight diverse composers and bring to the festival works expanding the canon of composers who have historically been ostracized because of their race and gender. In 2021, he helped the festival launch its initiative to program composers who identify as “AMELIA” (African American, Middle Eastern, Latino, Indigenous and Asian).
“I’ve always had an artistic imperative, never a political position of any kind,” he noted of his equity and diversity work.
Aspen concert audiences knew Santourian best for his colorful and informative pre-concert talks during the summer seasons.
An audience member in 2014 wrote to the Aspen Times that “Santourian’s gift as a storyteller and teacher allows us to experience with humor and simple words what we are about to hear, like any good storyteller , as if he were your favorite uncle telling a bedtime from Gebrüder Grimm”. story.”
In this new position, Santourian will mentor emerging young artists in Tanglewood’s vaunted program of approximately 125 musicians, conductors and composers each year, while overseeing the symphony’s training, education and community programs. He will also host talks and panels at Tanglewood.
Santourian came to Aspen from his role as artistic director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra in Holland, before working as an artistic planner for the Minnesota Orchestra.
His last day with Music Fest was January 13. Santourian said he was satisfied and proud with the current state of the organization and hopeful for its future.
“My hope is that they will maintain the direction established now,” said Santourian, adding that he was delighted that his successor would take the reins: “My hope is that he, she, them, whoever it is, will bring different ears and different eyes, and continue to take all participants on the journey.”
Fletcher said the organization is well into the process of finding a new vice president for arts administration and has attracted interest from candidates around the world.
“It is a tribute to Asadour that his former position is considered one of the most wanted in the world,” Fletcher said.
The festival is expected to announce details of its 2022 summer season next week, themed around artistic and cultural identity and titled “Tapestries”. It will take place from June 30 to August. 21.